Review: How Green Was My Valley – Richard Llewellyn

How Green Was My Valley Richard Llewellyn book review

How Green Was My Valley – Richard Llewellyn
First published by Michael Joseph, 1939
This edition, Penguin Classics, 2001

I picked up How Green Was My Valley after seeing Mercedes from MercysBookishMusings on Youtube mention the book in this video and then talk about it in her subsequent review. I’d never heard of the book before and it’s one that I probably wouldn’t have chosen otherwise. But I’m glad I did because How Green Was My Valley is a wonderful book and one with a completely enveloping and engrossing story and characters.

The novel is narrated by Huw Morgan as he looks back on his life living in a Welsh mining village. We witness the happiness that comes to the family and the trials they have to go through; Huw as he grows up and learns about the world, faith, and life; and the family and community as they are affected by the changing attitudes and ways of life in the village.

How Green Was My Valley is a highly character-driven novel and it is these characters which pulled me into the story. There’s a strong sense of community throughout the book and, as I was reading, I felt as if I was welcomed into this community and the book. Although there are a lot of characters and I sometimes got confused with all the names and who was married to who, I got wrapped up in the lives of these endearing characters, feeling saddened by their trials and joy at their triumphs. I easily lost time in this book, suddenly finding that I’d read 10 or 20 pages in no time at all, and as I could feel the number of pages left to read diminishing, I realised that I’d enjoyed spending time in the company of the Morgan family.

The story in the novel is slow, but not uneventful. While the story is told chronologically, it is meandering, with one story leading into another. In this way, it felt as if Huw was telling his story naturally, remembering different stories as they came to him, plus adding his reflections as an older man.

It’s the way this story is told which contributed to my enjoyment of reading the prose. What I loved about it was the way that it feels as if the story is coming directly from Huw’s mouth – his speech lilts and I soon grew accustomed to, and enjoyed reading, the Welsh turns of phrase which had, at first, sounded strange to my English ear. Throughout the novel the writing is also rich and poetical, which meant that it did take me some time to finish the book, but it was a joy to read. Sometimes it could be overly sentimental, romantic, and metaphoric, but it seems to fit into this coming-of-age story.

How Green Was My Valley is a wonderful novel which completely transports you back into the Welsh mining village in which it was set and draws you into the lives of the people living there. Llewellyn is clearly skilled in creating rich, full, and real characters, and there are wonderful passages throughout the novel. According to Wikipedia, Llewellyn wrote three sequels to this novel with Huw at their centre, and I would be interested in reading them at some point.

Have you read How Green Was My Valley or any of the sequels? What did you think?


11 thoughts on “Review: How Green Was My Valley – Richard Llewellyn

  1. Being Welsh I should probably have read this, but I haven’t! Will definitely try to get around to it at some point, thanks for the ‘reminder’ about it!

  2. Seen as I now live in what was a Welsh mining village, I think I might well find this one of interest. Also, Huw sounds like a wonderful narrator – I really like books with likeable narrators, someone you can get on with almost.
    Thanks for exposing me to this book!

  3. I read this many years ago and probably now have clearer memories of the television version that I think was made by the BBC. It was one of the classic books of my teenage years that we were all reading mainly because it depicted the lives of working class people like ourselves rather than those of the great and the good as was so much of the literature we were asked to read at school. I haven’t gone back and revisited it since, so perhaps I should add it to the very long list of books that I want to go back and re-read at some point.

    • I didn’t realise there had been a TV adaptation! Do you remember if it stayed faithful to the book? I hope you find some time to reread the novel soon 🙂

      • Reasonably so, yes although thinned out in textured. It was a very long time ago though. I don’t know if you’d ever manage to find a copy.

      • I’ll definitely see if I can track it down, it would be interesting to see the differences between the adaptation and the book.

  4. Great review Gemma! I feel like you have such an eclectic taste in books because so far I haven’t read any of the books you’ve reviewed (or maybe I have a narrow taste… ha). Anyway, it’s so cool that you picked this one up after hearing about it in a review and that you ended up enjoying it. One of my favorite experiences is when a book transports you to another time and place, which sounds like what this one has done for you. Fabulous characters are also always a plus. Anyway, putting this one on my to-read list; I hope the string of good books keeps on rolling for you.

    • Thanks Thomas! Glad you’ve added it to your list; let me know what you think if you get a chance to read it 🙂 Thanks, I hope so too! Actually, I’ve just finished a fantastic book called The Night Guest and my review of it should be up soon…

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